#7 - JRL 7238
June 24, 2003
Long Russian Weekends Do Not Aggravate Economic Situation
However, the German government believes that too many holidays are bad for economy
Russian experts believe that the residents of major Russian cities did not need a four-day weekend timed to Russia's Independence Day - June 12-15. Yet, they said that such a long weekend was good for the residents of small towns, because they had a very good opportunity to work in their gardens. Scientists think that a large number of holidays does not cause any damage to the Russian economy, in contrast to European countries.
At present, state holidays in Russia make up about one month of days off in a year. According to the information from the Ministry for Labor, every holiday costs about 12-14 billion rubles to the Treasury. However, holidays do not show any considerable influence on the volume of the GDP. The situation is totally different in Germany, for example. German Minister of Economy and Labour, Wolfgang Klement, has recently stated in an interview that Germans have too many days off, which causes damage to the national economy. The minister believes that the German economy is on the edge of recession, which has been caused with too many days off. The next year, the German government is determined to increase the speed of the economic growth by 0,5 percent and to change the schedule of holidays. However, in comparison with Russians, Germans can rest three times as less: they just have up to eleven holidays during a year. Nevertheless, scientists believe that Russian holidays do not exert any critical influence on the speed of the economic development.
The situation is explained with different structures of economy in Russia and Germany. "The Russian economy is oriented on raw materials, and this industry does not depend on state holidays," Igor Polyakov, the chief expert of the Macroeconomic Analysis Center said. "Raw materials are extracted on a permanent basis. Such industries as transportation, communication, electric power industry work continuously too. These industries are very important in the structure of the GDP, whereas the services sector, for example, is not really relevant. Holidays and days off affect the volume of production in the field of services. That is why, a large number of holidays is not as important for Russia as it is for Germany," the expert said.
On the other hand, it is not clear, what influence long weekends show on the Russian population. Theoretically, a large number of holidays is supposed to bring good for the health of the population, because it gives an opportunity for people to have a profound rest. However, it seems that it does not happen. People do have rest, but the majority of Russians, Igor Polyakov believes, drink too much alcohol, which is certainly not good for their health. "The level of the economic development in Russia is low. People have low wages because of that, which does not let them organize their leisure well. In addition to that, we do not have a lot of bright national holidays, in contrast to Tatarstan or Germany, for example," Igor Polyakov said. On the other hand, scientists believe that a more interesting organization of leisure would be more efficient than a large number of days off.
Furthermore, Mr. Polyakov thinks, a large number of holidays negatively affects young people, who are getting more oriented on a relaxed mode of life: "A lot of young people are not ready to work hard in their lives. They do not know that their career will depend on their work." The expert's conclusions can be confirmed with the results of a recent opinion poll. The majority of respondents (65 percent) think that contemporary young people are more oriented on leading a life full of rest, they want to entertain themselves and to enjoy life. Fifty-three percent of respondents said that the youth was not ready for independent life.
However, there is a considerable difference in how people use holidays and days off in Russia's major cities and small towns. Residents of small towns use long weekends in a more efficient way, working in their gardens or plots of land. "People consume the production that they grow on their plots of land, so it is included in the GDP," Igor Polyakov said.
Nevertheless, one may assume that the influence of holidays on the economic situation will change when the processing industry starts developing. Probably, the government will try to do something about it, if officials believe that too many holidays affect the industrial output negatively. The government will be able to find good reasons for such a decision in the past. In the beginning of the 1960s, Soviet people started working eight hours, the working week lasted six days. The working efficiency increased a lot at first, but then it dropped. After that, it was decided to make a five-day working week. As a result, the productivity became stable until 1985-1988, when money relations started showing in the USSR.